Russian Arms Sales To Azerbaijan On Again?
Russia has completed a big arms delivery worth about $1 billion to Azerbaijan, following reports that Baku was in fact suffering under a quiet de facto arms embargo from Moscow. The deals were in fact signed over the last two years, and most of them seem to have been previously reported. But they were apparently recently delivered to Baku and included, according to Reuters, "nearly 100 T-90C tanks, Smerch and TOS-1A multiple rocket launchers and Msta-A and Vena artillery cannons."
But wait, Bug Pit readers are saying. Didn't we just hear in April that Russia had cut off arms sales to Azerbaijan, in particular of several military aircraft deals that were in the works? That doesn't necessarily contradict today's news, given that the latter refers to various deals already signed. An interesting paragraph in the Reuters piece:
A source at the Russian Defence Ministry said the order had been on hold for some time to avoid upsetting the military balance in the South Caucasus, where Russia has a military base in Armenia and an agreement to defend the country if it comes under attack. But the deal had been pushed through at the behest of Russia's powerful arms industry, he said.
Now, "upsetting the military balance in the South Caucasus" could be a euphemism for many different things. And what really caused the delay, and how it was overcome, is anyone's guess. Frankly, this is the sort of story that makes one despair of ever understanding anything that goes on in the political-military affairs of the ex-USSR. To review: Russia gives lots of weapons to Armenia because it's a strategic ally, while selling arms at a profit to the oil-rich foe that Armenia is likely to go to war with, Azerbaijan. It's really win-win-win -- except for the people of the Caucasus, who are going to be the victims of these weapons some day.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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